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Conflict between buddhists
May 30th, 2013 (June 6th, 2014)

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

Conflict between buddhists

According to Thai buddhists, the symbolic yab-yum images (Tibetan, literally "father-mother") should be searched for and destroyed immediately, as the Buddha's image is 'smeared' and 'defamed'. A mention of Vietnam as the possible location for such a statue was enough to spark controversy, and the Vietnamese answered that they would 'never' produce such a 'rude' statue.

Because of the risk of misunderstanding, it is considered such images, statues or symbols should not be shown without accompanying explanations, or without proper instructions concerning their esoteric significance.
The use of sexual union as a symbol of mystical union evolved from Indian Tantric thought. Even in Mahāyānist Tantric traditions, such a symbol was never fully accepted by the Buddhists of China (and subsequently Japan). In Tibet, the yab-yum images are not intended for general use…

In the symbolic yab-yum images, the male figure is usually linked to compassion (karuṇā) and skillful means (upāya-kauśalya), while the female partner to "insight" (prajñā). This is a tantric teaching, but it has nothing to do with sexuality! Of course, such a position may indeed be used in sexual exercises too, but this is not what it represents!

In Tibetan Buddhism, the bell and the dorje play a similar role (also easily mis-interpreted in sexual terms), symbolising the dualism one must go beyond: an "appropriate response" to "things as they are" requires to go beyond the duality "me vs. the world", beyond the duality "what is vs. what should be", beyond the duality "observer vs. actor"…

When referring to the pāramitās (10 in Theravāda, 6 in Mahāyāna (although 10 is also possible)), it is considered that each quality can only manifest in its 'perfect' form when united with 'wisdom' (prajñā): e.g. 'wisdom' is what allows a bodhisattva to be 'compassionate' without drowning (e.g. by letting one know when to switch to 'stability' or 'rest' from equanimity, before plunging again in the ocean of suffering in due time). And, as such a symbol, the Nepalese statue is not contradicting the Theravādin teachings, at all!

There is nothing 'sullying' or 'dirty' in being nude. Attachment to clothes or to the 'importance' of appearances are actually among the attachments to cease…

There is nothing 'sullying' or 'dirty' in the contact between a man and a woman: all buddhas are born from women, and it requires ignorance to imagine Siddhārtha Gotama 's birth without any contact with Māyādevī 's female body at any stage of pregnancy, birth or the few hours before she died… It also requires ignorance to imagine he did not need physical contact with his aunt, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī.

If anything, we know our historical Buddha was married and had a son. Having made love to his wife did not prevent his next attainments, and we know he accepted in the saṅgha his adoptive mother Pajāpatī, his wife Yasodharā as well as an old servant who had been his mother in previous lives, all three became arhats.

The statue does not represent lust, it represents non-duality, and this includes stopping seeing anything related to women or to sexuality as intrinsically 'bad'. Unless you want to state that the birth of a buddha is bad…

Vietnamese source: